American Aquarium

Doc Roc Presents

American Aquarium

Matthew Ryan

Wed Sep 06

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:15 pm

Cain's Ballroom

Tulsa, OK

$15.00 - $17.00

This event is all ages


Advance $15
Day of $17
Door $17

There is a $2 fee that applies to all tickets purchased at the Cain's Box Office!

No re-entry! No smoking! No refunds!

Support acts are subject to change without notice!

American Aquarium
American Aquarium
For nearly a decade, American Aquarium have spent the majority of their days on the road, burning through a sprawl of highways during the day and playing hours of raw, rootsy rock & roll at night. Sometimes, the job is a grind. Most times, it's a blessing. American Aquarium's songs, filled with biographical lyrics about last calls, lost love and long horizons, have always explored both sides of that divide. For every drunken night at the bar, there's a hangover in the morning. For every new relationship, there's the chance of a broken heart. It's that kind of honesty — that sort of balance — that makes the band's newest album, Wolves, their strongest release to date.

And it nearly didn't happen. When American Aquarium traveled to Muscle Shoals to record Burn.Flicker.Die. in 2012, they were convinced the album would be their last. Even though they had enlisted the help of award-winning singer-songwriter Jason Isbell to produce the sessions, they were exhausted; weathered and whittled to the bone by more than a half-decade of heavy partying and heavier touring. To a small group of diehard fans, they were absolute rockstars… but being rockstars to a cult audience doesn't always put food on your table or gas in your tank. BJ Barham, the band's frontman, was so poor that he'd been living out of a storage unit for months, unable to afford an apartment in the band's hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Clearly, something had to give. Maybe it was time to make one final album — an album about failure, desperation and disillusionment — and then throw in the towel.

As fate would have it, Burn.Flicker.Die. eventually proved itself to be the band’s most successful release to date. Critics loved it. Fans rallied behind it. Fast forward 2 years and almost 500 shows later, the band has travelled the world, quadrupled their fan base and reinvented their passion for the road. When the time came to record another album in June 2014, it only made sense to do something that celebrated survival rather than failure.

The result? Wolves, which Barham describes as "the sound of a band firing on all cylinders". Produced by Megafaun's Brad Cook and recorded during a 20-day stay at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Wolves was funded entirely by American Aquarium’s diehard fanbase. The album’s 10 tracks represent a departure from the band’s signature twang. Instead drawing more from the alternative rock sound that inspired their name almost a decade ago. Wolves blends the twang of the pedal steel with the dark, dirty swirl of two electric guitars, creating a sound that's fit for the roadhouse, the honky tonk and the dive bar. Barham has certainly spent time in all three, but now looks to brighter horizons in these new songs.

"I've always written about being the drunk guy at the bar at 2 a.m.," he admits. "I've written about the pick-up lines and the drinking and the drugs. This record is more personal than that. It's a coming of age record."

It's also a record that reaffirms his faith in American Aquarium, a band he started in 2006. Since that time, more than 25 musicians have passed through the group's ranks. In recent years though, things have felt a lot more stable. Ryan Johnson, Bill Corbin, Whit Wright, Kevin McClain and the newest addition, Colin Dimeo, round out the group, turning Barham's songs into fiery, fleshed-out compositions.

With Wolves, which hits stores February 3, 2015, American Aquarium is literally bigger and better.

"We were legitimized by Burn.Flicker.Die.," Barham says. "That album was a breakup record with the road. It basically said, 'This is our last album, this is why we're quitting, and hey, thanks for the memories.' Fast-forward to 2014, though, and we're making a new record that says, 'We ain't done yet.'"
Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan is experiencing a kind of noisy renaissance. It began in 2014 with the release of Boxers, a fevered and smart rock ‘n’ roll record about the working class, produced by Kevin Salem. May 2017 will see the follow-through with Hustle Up Starlings, a heart-on-the-sleeve collection of silvery anthems that further illustrate Ryan’s reinvigorated love of language, noise and cinema.

Produced by Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem, Starlings shimmers with an immediate and captivating focus. The 10-song set clocks in at 40 minutes with no prevarication or bluster, just a celebratory noise alight with hearts and history, broken-in voices and poetry.

Matthew Ryan grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania just south of Philly, and spent his teens in Newark, Delaware. In his early 20s, he moved to Nashville, where he was first signed to A&M Records, releasing May Day (1997) and East Autumn Grin (2000) before falling prey to the titanic label mergers of the early aughts.

What followed was more or less an album a year by any and all means possible until 2012’s In The Dusk of Everything. After moving to Western Pennsylvania in 2011, Ryan quietly decided that he’d had enough. Dusk would be his last album. “Music had become too lonely,” he said. But soon after that declaration, a sudden friendship with the frontman from The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, reignited something in Ryan. Fallon invited him out on some tour dates, and after performing a version of Ryan’s “I Can’t Steal You” (off of 2003’s Regret Over The Wires) together in New York City, the two decided they’d like to work together one day. Fallon just wanted to play guitar, but Ryan suspected he’d found a producer.

Hustle Up Starlings was recorded last summer in Nashville at Doug Lancio’s place on the East Side. Ryan assembled the cast because they all shared a common ethos and similar roots — The Clash, The Replacements, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, The Cure, The Jam... Each of them hard working lovers of pop music with a black eye, a brain and soul.

Things were a little tense at the start. “Artists are like boxers,” Ryan says. “They have to test each other a little before they can trust each other.” And this was a roomful of artists. Brad Pemberton (Steve Earle, Ryan Adams) played drums and percussion; Brian Bequette (long-time blood brother and band member of Ryan’s) played bass; Fallon played electric and acoustic guitars while helming production; Doug Lancio engineered and mixed while adding synth and additional guitars. Ryan sang and played guitar as well. David Henry (former cellist for Cowboy Junkies) added strings where needed.

Fallon had a sense of the orchestration and arrangement already filed in his mind. They’d gather and play a song acoustically, discuss what they were hearing and what needed to happen, then Fallon would take the lead, check in with Ryan and off they’d go. Lancio would hustle around getting the mics and levels sorted then press record. They kept the takes that moved them, that felt alive. Most of the vocals you’ll hear were of the moment, as is the band’s performance. There was some minimal overdubbing, then Fallon would add backing vocals while the energy of just capturing a new recording was still in the room. Song after song played out like this. 7 days were booked, and they were finished in 5.

Hustle Up Starlings is an album in the truest sense of the word — it’s a cohesive sonic and narrative expression with a beginning, middle and end. It was in a conversation with the great producer and songwriter Joe Henry that Ryan realized once again the importance of committing to the fullness of experience that an album offers. “It’s an intimate story I’m telling here. These songs are personal, but if I’m lucky and I’ve done my job, they become universal. The story I’m living and writing about is happening in the context of this world we’re all observing and feeling right now, a world that feels like it might catch fire with all its uncertainty and friction, the ugly politics and rising impulses.”

Ryan explains further, “You see, this is what we do though, even when the world feels like it’s about to burn down, we keep leaning for tomorrow in our own lives and stories and families. It’s all hope and perseverance. We get up and we go to work. We believe in tomorrow, even when we’re not sure what tomorrow will be. Joe helped me to realize that I should probably tell the whole story as best I could. Brian and Doug and the band helped me bring it to life so it could be heard and shared. And hopefully felt.”

On Hustle Up Starlings, we find an artist who has shifted into some higher gear and come into full fruition. The entire collection is not only bolstered by a great band and their sonic immediacy, the songs are so generous with incisive couplets and soaring, searing choruses that repeated listens don’t dull its charm. Each song and performance in this collection leans on perseverance like a car leans into a hard curve — the thrill of “(I Just Died) Like An Aviator,” the inspired grit of “Battle Born,” the unguarded intimacies of “Maybe I’ll Disappear,” the jilted humor and meanness of “Bastard.”

There’s romance and doubt, there’s memory informing the phantoms of the future, there’s work and hope-tinged despair. There are moments that arrive and feel like instant classics. The title track, “Hustle Up Starlings,” comes in like an ambient Rolling Stones tune and unfolds in a filmic, breathtakingly honest way. Each detail glows as the story builds upon itself, cool and warm, incisive. The entire album works like this, each song into the next, moment after moment. It doesn’t let up.

Hustle Up Starlings will be released on May 12th, 2017.
Venue Information:
Cain's Ballroom
423 N Main St.
Tulsa, OK, 74103
http://www.cainsballroom.com